Past Exhibitions

Memorial Sutras: Sanctifying the Letters of the Deceased
June 16, 2015 - July 20, 2015

There are many ways of memorializing the deceased. One of them is to sanctify letters sent by the person during their lifetime by inscribing or printing sutras on them. This is thought to have originated during the Heian Period (794-1185), and been most widely practiced over the several centuries thereafter. Here, we present surviving examples of memorial sutras, primarily those produced by the Emperor or members of the Imperial Family. While not originally intended for aesthetic appreciation, they have tremendous artistic merit as calligraphy, and are also relevant to the Obon Festival honoring the souls of the departed, which by the old lunar calendar fell on July 15, during this exhibition's duration.

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